Here's how the US planned to invade Canada - We Are The Mighty
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Here’s how the US planned to invade Canada

Here’s how the US planned to invade Canada
Photo: US Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kasey Peacock


A time-honored tradition in the U.S. military, contingency plans have been drawn up for the defense against, and invasion of, most major military powers. In fact, in response to recent events on the Korean peninsula, the U.S. and South Korea recently signed on to such a plan. One of the most interesting episodes in this rich history of preparing for things that will probably never happen came when Uncle Sam planned to invade Johnny Canuck.

Early Planning

In the years leading up to World War II, beginning in fact in the 1920s, the army began planning for wars with a variety of countries, designating each plan by a different color: Germany (black), Japan (orange), Mexico (green) and England (red); as a dominion of Great Britain, Canada (crimson) was presumed to be loyal to England, and thus was included in the plan against a supposed British invasion (not to be confused with that of the 1960s).

The paranoid U.S. military strategists who devised War Plan Red believed that if the Britain and America were to battle again, it would begin from a trade dispute. Whatever the cause, army planners anticipated that any war with England would be prolonged, not only because of British and Canadian tenacity, but also from the fact that Britain could draw manpower and resources from its empire, including at that time Australia, Hong Kong, India, Kenya, New Zealand, Nigeria, Palestine, South Africa and Sudan.

Canadian Invasion Plan

Different versions of the plan were proposed, and one was first approved in 1930 by the War Department. It was updated in 1934-1935, and, of course, never implemented. Although it was far reaching and addressed some of Britain’s greatest strengths, such as the Royal Navy, one of the chief areas of concern was the U.S.’s long border with Canada. As a result, the plan addressed our northern neighbors with great detail, to wit:

British Columbia

With its vital naval base, military strategists planned a naval attack on Victoria, launched from Port Angeles, Washington, as well as a combined assault on Vancouver and its island. Successful occupation of this area would effectively cut off Canada from the Pacific.

Manitoba

The central hub for the Canadian railway system was located in Manitoba’s capital city, Winnipeg; army strategists felt that a land assault could easily be launched from Grand Forks, North Dakota, and Canada’s rail lines neutralized.

New Brunswick and Nova Scotia

Military planners apparently hoped to stun the Maritime Provinces with a poison gas attack on Nova Scotia’s capital city, Halifax, then also home to a major naval base. The chemical battle would then be followed by a sea invasion at St. Margaret’s Bay. It that didn’t work, an overland invasion and occupation of New Brunswick would, hopefully, isolate the valuable seaports of Nova Scotia from the remainder of Canada, effectively stopping British resupply of its forces.

Ontario

A three-pronged attack, arising from Buffalo, Detroit and Sault Ste. Marie would gain control of the Great Lakes for the U.S. In addition to causing a crushing blow to British supply lines, it would allow the United States to control most of Canada’s industrial production.

Quebec

An overland attack launching from adjacent New York and Vermont was planned. Control of this French-speaking province would, when combined with control of the Maritime Provinces, stop Britain from having any entry point to the remainder of the country from the Eastern seaboard.

Revelation of the Plan

Although it was declassified in 1974, portions of the plan were inadvertently leaked long before. During what was supposed to be classified testimony by military brass to the House Military Affairs Committee, two generals revealed some of the details of War Plan Red. That testimony was mistakenly published in official reports, which were picked up and printed by the New York Times.

Also revealed in the New York Times was the fact that the United States Congress had assigned $57 million in 1935 (nearly $1 billion today) in order to build three air bases near the U.S./Canadian border in line with War Plan Red’s recommendations, in case the U.S. needed to defend against or attack Canada.  These air bases were supposed to be disguised as civilian airports, but the Government Printing Office accidentally reported the existence of the air bases on May 1 of 1935, blowing their cover.

Interestingly, War Plan Red’s recommendations also proposed that the U.S. not just invade in such a war with Britain and Canada, but take over, adding any conquered regions as states to the United States.

The Sad History of Americans Invading Canada Badly

Americans have a history of underestimating the Canadians:

Revolutionary War

In September 1775, Benedict Arnold (when he was still on our side) led an unsuccessful assault on Quebec City overland through difficult Maine wilderness; over 40% of Arnold’s men were lost making the attempt, and yet, inexplicably, he was promoted to Brigadier General.

War of 1812

During the second war with Britain, Thomas Jefferson opined that to occupy Canada was a “mere matter of marching” for U.S. troops. Yet attacks in the Old Northwest, across the Niagara River, and north from Lake Champlain, all failed.

Proxy “War” for Ireland

Over a period of five years from 1866 to 1872, Irish Catholics from the U.S. engaged in a series of raids on Canadian targets, including forts and customs houses. Known as the Fenian raids, the Fenian Brotherhood had hoped that their actions would force the British to withdraw from Ireland. They were unsuccessful.

Post Cold War

In 1995, Michael Moore created a fictional war between the United States and Canada in the comedy, Canadian Bacon. Like the real-life Americans who went before them, the fictional invasion in this farcical political commentary failed.

What Comes Around Goes Around

Here’s how the US planned to invade Canada
Canadian soldiers storm a beach near Mayport, Florida during an exercise in 2009. Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Alan Gragg

Before you get the idea that only Americans are aggressive bastards, you should know that the Canadians had developed a plan to invade the United States before the U.S. ever started on its scheme.

Characterized as a counterattack, the 1921 plan more accurately resembles a preemptive war. The brainchild of Lieutenant Colonel Buster Sutherland Brown of the Canadian Army, the plan called for a surprise attack on the U.S. as soon as the Canadians had “evidence” that America was planning an invasion; it was felt that a preemptive strike was required, as it would be the only way Canada could prevail in a battle with its larger, southern neighbor, which benefited from a far greater arsenal and much more manpower.

Other advantages of the quick strike included the fact that the war would be fought on American territory, so losses in civilian life and infrastructure would be borne by the Americans. Finally, the colonel thought this plan would best buy the Canadians time for their allies, the British, to come to their rescue before the Americans could launch an effective counterstrike.

It’s always the quiet ones.

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A WWII Veteran Has A Nazi Doctor To Thank For Saving His Life — Twice

Here’s how the US planned to invade Canada
Bob Levine’s dog tags with the letter ‘H’ indicating his Hebrew faith – a death sentence in Nazi Germany. (Photo: NYDN)


A few weeks after D-Day, U.S Army Private Bob Levine was hit by the shrapnel from a grenade that landed next to him during a fierce battle to take a German-held hill overlooking the beach at Normandy.  The next thing he knew he had an enemy paratrooper standing over him.

“He looked about 10 feet tall, and pointed his submachine gun at me,” Levine told the New York Daily News. “The kid next to me got up and took off, and he just wheeled around and shot him.”

Levine was suddenly a prisoner of war.  And his situation went from bad to worse as his already wounded leg was hit again, this time by fragments from an American artillery shell.

The next thing Levine knew he was lying on a table in a French farmhouse with a Nazi doctor standing over him studying his dog tags.

“He says, ‘Was ist H?’ — and that was all I had to hear,” Levine recalled to the New York Daily News. “I said to myself — and I can still hear myself saying it — ‘There goes my 20th birthday.’

“I really did not think I would make it.”

But he did make it.  He woke up missing two things:  the bottom half of his left leg, which had been surgically amputated, and his dog tags.

Here’s how the US planned to invade Canada
Bob Levine, seated center, in the hospital during World War II. (Photo: Levine family collection)

The Nazi doctor had saved his life twice.  Once by amputating his leg and preventing the onset of deadly gangrene and once by removing his dog tags, thereby hiding any evidence that Levine was Jewish — a death sentence of its own in the days of the Third Reich.

Levine did some research in the years following the war and discovered that the man who had saved him was Dr. Edgar Woll.  Woll died in 1954 before the two had a chance to meet in person again, but Levine returned to Normandy in 1981 and met with the doctor’s family.  The two families grew close, close enough that one of the doctor’s granddaughters stayed with the Levines while attending Fairleigh Dickenson University.

As terrible as war is there are times when it reveals the potential beauty of humanity.  And what stands out most of all in Levine’s memories of that first meeting with the doctor’s family is a toast one of the German guests offered at a party the Wolls hosted:  “Without you we’d all be saying ‘heil Hitler.'”

Read the entire New York Daily News article here.

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5 ‘Game of Thrones’ battles and massacres based on real history

Warning: “Game of Thrones” spoilers ahead.


  • HBO’s “Game of Thrones” includes numerous historical allusions.
  • Some of the references are more obvious than others.
  • “A Song of Ice and Fire” author George R.R. Martin has frequently expressed his own interest in history.

As they say, truth is often stranger than fiction.

That’s something that “A Song of Ice and Fire” author George R.R. Martin — whose work was adapted into HBO’s hit series “Game of Thrones — clearly understands.

Related: 7 reasons the Night’s Watch is basically the French Foreign Legion

In one interview with author Bernard Cornwell, Martin even said that “the historical novel and the epic fantasy are sisters under the skin.”

So it’s not surprising that his most famous work is chock full of historical allusions.

Here are just a few historical references included in “Game of Thrones”:

The fight between the Starks and the Lannisters should ring a bell for any medieval scholar

Here’s how the US planned to invade Canada
HBO

The War of the Roses might not have a terribly intimidating name, but it was a bloody conflict that sent England spiraling into disunity and chaos during the latter part of the fifteenth century.

The war was primarily fought between the House of York and the House of Lancaster.

Sound familiar?

Like their fictional counterparts, the Lancaster faction won the war after much death and scheming.

However, ultimately, it was the House of Tudor that prevailed and won the throne. They adopted the Tudor rose as their emblem, a combination of the white rose of York and the red rose of Lancaster.

The Battle of the Bastards is a twist on a famous Carthaginian victory

Here’s how the US planned to invade Canada
HBO

“The Battle of the Bastards,” which saw the noble-hearted Jon Snow face off against the wicked Ramsay Bolton, was one of the most raved-about episodes of season 6.

The numerous immersive, intense battle scenes kicked this episode into high gear for many viewers.

The whole thing also likely looked rather familiar to classical scholars.

That’s because the showrunners mirrored the whole clash on the Battle of Cannae, as Kristen Acuna wrote for Tech Insider.

That famous 216 CE battle is now regarded as one of the most impressive tactical victories of all time. After spending two years rampaging about the Italian peninsula, Carthaginian leader Hannibal Barca cemented his status as a military legend by surrounding and defeating his enemies with a much smaller force.

Ramsay’s forces used a similar pincer movement during the Battle of the Bastards. Jon was ultimately able to subvert the historical model and break free of Ramsay’s circle of death, with the help of reinforcements from the Eyrie.

In Hannibal’s case, the Roman legions were butchered, leaving up to 70,000 dead, including Roman consul Lucius Aemilius Paullus.

Paullus’ son-in-law Scipio Africanus would ultimately defeat Hannibal once and for all at Zama.

The Boltons share their habit of skinning people alive with an ancient regime

Here’s how the US planned to invade Canada
HBO

Getting flayed alive is probably one of the worst ways to go out.

So it’s no surprise that skinning people was a favorite past-time of Ramsay Bolton — one of the worst characters to ever grace the small screen.

But this antagonist’s gruesome hobby didn’t simply come from the dark side of Martin’s imagination.

In fact, one ancient kingdom was famous for skinning its enemies.

According to the blog History Buff, the Assyrian King Ashurnasirpal II claimed to have “flayed as many nobles as had rebelled against me and draped their skins over the pile of corpses; some I spread out within the pile, some I erected on stakes upon the pile … I flayed many right through my land and draped their skins over the walls.”

Yikes.

Westeros’ colossal ice wall has a real-world counterpart

Here’s how the US planned to invade Canada
HBO

Martin first thought of the Wall on a trip to Scotland.

“I stood on Hadrian’s Wall and tried to imagine what it would be like to be a Roman soldier sent here from Italy or Antioch,” Martin told the SF Site. “To stand here, to gaze off into the distance, not knowing what might emerge from the forest.”

Hadrian’s Wall was hardly an imposing ice wall. And it didn’t protect England from scary, winter zombies. Construction on it began in 122 CE, ostensibly to separate the Romans from the native Britons.

The blog “The History Behind Game of Thrones” explains that the Westerosi Wall and the initial treatment of the Wildlings mirrors “the Roman perception of the native Britons as the ‘Other’ — a distancing strategy employed to dehumanize, alienate, exclude and justify ill treatment of groups outside of one’s own.”

There have been several Red Wedding-style attacks throughout the centuries

Here’s how the US planned to invade Canada

The Red Wedding traumatized fans, and will likely be remembered as the bloodiest, most harrowing party to ever grace television.

A strikingly similar attack took place in Ireland in 1574.

An Irish chieftain named Sir Brian mac Felim Ó Néill ruled over the kingdom of Clannabuidhe and had previously been knighted by the English Crown. When he lost the Queen’s favor, he began to fight against the English invaders. Eventually, however, he invited Walter Devereux, the Earl of Essex, to his castle to discuss peace terms over a Christmas feast, according to Wayne E. Lee’s “Barbarians and Brothers.”

At the Earl’s signal, Sir Brian, his wife, and the rest of his family were seized, while 200 of their followers were indiscriminately slaughtered.

Sir Brian Ó Néill and his family were all subsequently executed.

A similar situation occurred in Scotland, during the 1692 Massacre of Glencoe.

Captain Robert Campbell and 120 of his men were given hospitality at Clan MacDonalds’ castle. After two weeks, a message arrived ordering Campbell to attack, according to Britannica.

One winter’s night, the soldiers played cards with their victims and bid them pleasant dreams, as usual. Then they massacred all the MacDonald men they could find, including the chief.

Another Red Wedding-esque incident — the similarly-named Black Dinner — went down in Scotland in 1440. Advisers of the 10-year-old King James II grew concerned that Clan Douglas was growing too bold and powerful, according to the Week.

These advisers invited the 16-year-old Earl of Douglas and his younger brother to come over to Edinburgh Castle. The king and the Douglases had an enjoyable time. Nothing seemed amiss.

Then, at the end of the dinner, the severed head of a bull — a symbol of Clan Douglas — was tossed on the table. Like the “Rains of Castamere” at the Red Wedding, this was the signal. Much to the young king’s horror, his two friends were dragged outside, put through a mock trial, and decapitated.

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Air Force legend General Chuck Yeager weighs in on the F-22 and the F-35

Here’s how the US planned to invade Canada


You may know that Brig. Gen. Chuck Yeager of the US Air Force holds the distinction of being the first man to travel faster than the speed of sound, is one of the force’s most prolific test pilots, and is perhaps the greatest military pilot of all time — but did you know he’s very active on Twitter?

The legendary general recently weighed in on the $1 trillion F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program. Here’s what he said:

Here’s how the US planned to invade Canada
Twitter

“Waste of money.”

This is a far cry from the current Air Force brass’ ringing endorsement of the “game-changing” aircraft. But with the aircraft costing about $100 million each, and with the highest price tag ever associated with developing a weapons system, perhaps Yeager thinks the money would be better spent on training pilots and maintaining a more traditional Air Force.

So I thought to ask him what he thought about restarting the F-22, the world’s first fifth-generation aircraft. While the F-22 costs are also very high, it functions a bit more like a traditional fighter jet than the multirole F-35, which I thought maybe Yeager would appreciate. So what did he think?

Here’s how the US planned to invade Canada
Twitter

So there you have it. According to perhaps the greatest living military pilot, the entire fifth generation of US Air Force jets are a waste of money.

Better luck next time.

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That time Patton denied the guy who saved his life in WWI

Joe Angelo was a World War I veteran who served in the Army during the Meuse-Argonne offensive. This is where he would unknowingly make a significant contribution to World War II.


That’s not a typo.

Angelo was an orderly to the 304th Tank Brigade commander, Capt. George S. Patton. As Patton maneuvered on the battlefield, he learned that many of his men were dead and thus unavailable to clear machine gun nests. He and Angelo were about to charge the nests themselves when Patton was exposed to machine gun fire that critically wounded him.

His orderly – Angelo – pulled him to safety.

Here’s how the US planned to invade Canada
Angelo with the Distinguished Service Cross Patton awarded to him.

He then dressed Patton’s wounds in a shell crater. Angelo was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions. Patton told newspapers Angelo was “without doubt the bravest man in the American Army. I have never seen his equal.”

The young orderly took the praise reluctantly and when the war ended, he went back to work as a civilian. Patton, of course, continued his military career.

Then the Great Depression hit.

Here’s how the US planned to invade Canada
Bonus Army Speakers in Washington, 1932.

Angelo soon found himself unemployed along with 25 percent of the country. The Depression hit Great War veterans especially hard. As soldiers, they made much less than the average factory worker at the time. So in 1924, Congress voted to give them an adjusted wage – called a “Bonus” by the plan’s critics – $1.25 for every day overseas and $1.00 for every day in the States.

Veterans who were owed 50 dollars or less were paid immediately. Everyone else was issued a certificate, with four percent interest and an additional 25 percent upon payment. The only problem was that this was to be paid in 1945 and the vets needed the money ASAP.

In response, WWI veterans converged on Washington with their families, setting up in large tent cities. Estimates were that 20,000 veterans were living in the D.C. camp. The media dubbed them “The Bonus Army.” Living among them was Joe Angelo.

Now known as American military legends, the men in charge of carrying out President Hoover’s order for the U.S. Army to clear the camp were Dwight D. Eisenhower, Douglas MacArthur, and George S. Patton.

Patton, now a major, was one of the first officers to arrive in the capital. Patton led federal troops up Pennsylvania Avenue on the way to the Bonus Army camp. Using swords and gas grenades to clear the marchers, his cavalrymen spent the night destroying the veterans camp.

Here’s how the US planned to invade Canada
Police and Mounted Soldiers used tear gas and force on the Bonus Army.

The next morning, Angelo tried to get close to Patton, but his former commander outright rejected the advance. Major Patton told his aides with Angelo in earshot, “I do not know this man. Take him away and under no circumstances permit him to return.”

The New York Times ran a story on the meeting between the two men the very next day, under the headline “A Calvary Major Evicts Veteran Who Saved His Life in Battle.”

In their book on the Bonus Army, “The Bonus Army: An American Epic,” Paul Dickson and Thomas B. Allen, wrote that Patton explained the situation to his fellow officers over coffee right after Angelo was escorted away:

“That man was my orderly during the war. When I was wounded, he dragged me from a shell hole under fire. I got him a decoration for it. Since the war, my mother and I have more than supported him. We have given him money. We have set him up in business several times. Can you imagine the headlines if the papers got word of our meeting here this morning. Of course, we’ll take care of him anyway.”

Patton called it the “most distasteful form of service” and spent the interwar years working on less violent ways the military can clear such uprisings in the future.

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This Italian king went all ‘Game of Thrones’ on his enemies

Here’s how the US planned to invade Canada
Showtime | The Borgias


The Italian Renaissance had a pretty cutthroat political climate, but King Ferrante I of Naples carved out his own niche of crazy. Born the illegitimate son of Alfonso V of Aragon in 1423, Ferrante (“Ferdinand” in Italian) spent most of his life wrangling his Neapolitan realm into submission. The experience turned him into a real brute.

Ferrante didn’t let most of his enemies go free. Instead, he killed and mummified them—keeping their preserved corpses in the castle of Castelnuovo for his own enjoyment. He loved having them close by, according to nineteenth-century historian Jacob Burckhardt, “either in well-guarded prisons, or dead and embalmed, dressed in the costume which they wore in their lifetime.” A contemporary chronicler described them as “a frightful sight,” having been “pickled with herbs,” as a warning to future royal enemies.

Ferrante I as a bust, not a mummy Ferrante I as a bust, not a mummy

How did Ferrante get so twisted? King Alfonso didn’t have any legitimate male heirs of his own at the time, and he really wanted his not-so-secret love child to rule over at least part of his burgeoning empire. Thus, he gave Ferdinand the best education he could afford: tutoring by Rodrigo Borgia (later Ferrante’s mortal enemy when he became a cardinal, then Pope Alexander VI). Despite his legitimization, Ferrante struggled to hold on to his territory, facing opposition from numerous popes and the French candidate to his throne, Duke Jean II of Anjou.

Needless to say, Ferrante hated Jean and his French pals, even after he beat them, so he devised his own morbid revenge. After he dominated the French in 1465, Ferrante invited a bunch of his rebellious nobles and their families over to his castle for dinner. He ostensibly was showing his benevolence, and who wouldn’t want to make up over a meal? Unfortunately for his guests, Ferrante wasn’t in a forgiving mood. He fed some of them to the crocodiles in his moat and threw the rest in prison—keeping some of them there for the next thirty years. The King threw another enemy out the window (the Neapolitans loved defenestration). Some of these guys probably wound up in his mummy collection.

Interestingly, Ferrante didn’t just believing in mummifying his enemies. He had himself preserved as an artificial mummy after his own death in 1494. Modern scholars have autopsied his body and determined that he died of large bowel cancer.

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Another close call as Russian provocations of the American military continue

Here’s how the US planned to invade Canada
Russian SU-27 Flanker. (Photo: Dmitriy Pichugin, Creative Commons)


Earlier this week a Russian Su-27 Flanker made what DOD officials described as an “unsafe and unprofessional” pass on U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon. The Russian fighter came within ten feet of the American maritime patrol jet, which was operating over international waters in the Black Sea.

The incident is the latest involving American surveillance or maritime patrol aircraft. Earlier this year, an RC-135U Combat Sent surveillance aircraft also had a close encounter with a Russian Flanker. Russian Su-24 Fencers have buzzed American and Canadian ships in the Black Sea and Baltic Sea since 2014, the year that Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula.

“These actions have the potential to unnecessarily escalate tensions between countries, and could result in a miscalculation or accident which results in serious injury or death,” the Pentagon said in a statement released Wednesday.

The Russians aren’t alone with these types of acts. In 2014 and 2015, the Pentagon reported on incidents involving Chinese fighters also acting in an unsafe manner while intercepting P-8 and RC-135 aircraft over the South China Sea.

And in 2001, a People’s Liberation Army Navy J-8 Finback piloted by Wang Wei collided with a U.S. Navy EP-3E Aries II surveillance aircraft. The J-8 crashed, killing Wei, while the EP-3E made an emergency landing on Hainan Island, where the crew was held for over a week.

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‘Pin-ups for Vets’ creatively shows appreciation for veterans

Here’s how the US planned to invade Canada


When we think about ways to give back to the veteran community and show our appreciation, we often turn to the standard monetary contributions and volunteer opportunities, but there are more creative ways to show our appreciation as well. One example of such an endeavor is the organization Pinups for Vets.

I recently had the founder of Pinups for Vets, Gina Elise, on the Military Veterans in Creative Careers podcast, and I was surprised and inspired by what she had to share. Gina started the organization in 2006 as a way to give back to the veteran community. After seeing images of veterans alone in hospital beds, and watching reports on the news of the severe injuries sustained by our troops fighting in Iraq, she became convinced that she had to do something to help raise funds to support our hospitalized veterans.

She had always been a fan of World War II nose art (on the nose of the plane), so decided to use this creative passion of hers to create calendars that could be donated to veterans and raise money for VA hospitals. Now it is a reality, and Gina not only produces the calendars, but brings a group together and goes to donate the calendars at VA hospitals, dressed as the pinups. The organization has donated over $50,000 worth of rehab equipment for VA hospitals nationwide, and has visited over 7,000 ill and injured veterans.

As you would imagine with a group that visits VA hospitals, the stories Gina had to share were touching. She mentioned a man who was in the hospital for a traumatic injury, and how they were talking with him and he responded. This wouldn’t have been a big deal, except for the fact that afterward they were told that this man had not spoken in over a month.

Navy veteran Jennifer Marshall is a return volunteer for these groups that go to VA hospitals, and shared with me the story of an elderly Navy veteran who cried because she was so happy to have this visit. The video of this touching moment is below:

Jennifer had the following to say about her volunteer experience with Pinups for Vets:

Volunteering with Pin-Ups for Vets means so much to me. On every visit, we see veterans that have not had visitors in days, weeks, or even months. Reconnecting with my brothers and sisters, regardless of era served or branch, is a unique and often beautiful experience. No veteran should ever feel lonely or go without visitors while hospitalized. I do it because not only do I value our veterans, but it makes me feel good as well. I love connecting with other vets and I think volunteer work is essential for anyone who would like to make the world a little brighter.

She also had the following experience to share, which reminds us of the need of young veterans as well:

A visit that sticks out in my mind was when we walked into a room and there were two very young veterans in their late 20s to early 30s. At the hospital, they were surrounded by elderly vets and did not really have anyone to talk to. We spent a lot of time in that room just talking and reminiscing about the service. They were so happy to have company that was around their same age, and it was a really great bonding experience. We signed their calendars and took photos to remember the day by. I still think about that visit often.

Jennifer told me she feels that, through such visits, along with the organizations active social media presence, “people are able to see that there are still veterans who not only appreciate but need the companionship.”

The website for the organization includes thank you letters from the hospitals these volunteers have been able to visit, and reading these was an inspiration in itself. One line from these letters that helped me understand the importance of the visits said their visits make “every day Veterans Day” for their residents.

We don’t want anyone to end up alone in a hospital, especially anyone who dedicated themselves to serving our country. We are fortunate that Pinups for Vets is making an effort, and can see this first hand in the commitment these men and women make to showing these veterans that they care. An example below shows Gina dancing with a veteran, a touching moment that may not change the world, but certainly shows that veteran and the others who see this that people appreciate our service and are making an effort to ensure we are not alone.
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6 myths civilians believe about Marines

Since Nov. 10th, 1775, the Marine Corps’ rich history of kicking ass and taking names has charmed Americans and earned their respect all across the United States. Because of that, civilians see Marines in a different perspective than the Navy, Air Force, or even Army.


Since every branch of the military has a particular image that the general population associates them with, we asked several civilians, “What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think about the Marines?”

Related: 5 military myths that Hollywood has taught us to believe are true

Here’s what they said:

1. They have to be super patriotic to join

Most of them are, but others just couldn’t see themselves serving in another branch.

Now I’m joining the Corps! (Images via Giphy)

2. All Marines have to go war and fight

Not true. The Marines Corps is made of several different elements other than the infantry, like aircraft maintenance, logistics, and duties that cause your Marine to sit in an office and analyze intel all day — so breathe easy, momma bear.

Dammit, Carl! (Images via Giphy)

3. They’re all excellent shots with a rifle

Most are, but a low number of recruits score just high enough to earn the “rifle marksman” medal, a.k.a. the “pizza box.” All Marines must rifle qual before they can graduate from basic training, but it takes extra training and skill to earn higher levels of marksmanship.

Ask a Marine to explain this joke. (Images via Giphy)

4. They’re buff and strong

Most are pretty jacked, but many are just normal size — they make it up by having tons of heart.

Oh, Master Sergeant! (Images via Giphy)

5. They are mean and scary as hell

Marines can get pretty intense, but that just shows their passion. While a Marine can get super scary (especially when they gain rank or come in contact with people they just don’t like), some get by with just a quiet intensity.

But most of the time they’re fun loving. (Images via Giphy)

6. They’re brainwashed in boot camp

Negative, Ghost Rider.

They are just influenced to love their country and branch of service at an exceptionally high level through various mental and physical activities.

They have to be, to carry out the missions they’re are asked to do.

Sometimes this involves screaming while brushing their teeth — which may happen. (Images via Giphy)Can you think of any others? Comment below.

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Russia appears to now be aiding the Taliban

Back in the 1980s, the US supported Afghan “freedom fighters” against the Soviet Union. Those fighters later morphed into the Taliban. And now, the Russians seem to be returning the favor.


Moscow said last month it was in contact with the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, with the stated reason being that Russia was sharing information and cooperating on strategy to fight the local ISIS affiliate there, according to The Wall Street Journal. So far, cooperation apparently doesn’t involve cash or guns.

But it understandably has US commanders there spooked.

Gen. John Nicholson, the top American military commander in Afghanistan, has spoken out against Russia’s extension of an olive branch to the Taliban as offering “overt” legitimacy to a group intent on toppling the Afghan government.

Als read: Vietnam-era S-60 gun turns Russian T-15 Armata into a Bradley killer

Russia’s “narrative goes something like this: that the Taliban are the ones fighting Islamic State, not the Afghan government,” Nicholson said at a Pentagon briefing last month. “So this public legitimacy that Russia lends to the Taliban is not based on fact, but is used as a way to essentially undermine the Afghan government and the NATO efforts and bolster the belligerents.”

Surprisingly, even Taliban officials say the excuse of offering help to fight ISIS doesn’t add up. Two officials disputed that characterization, including the group’s spokesman, who toldReuters that “ISIS is not an issue.” In fact, both groups forged a shaky truce in August 2016 to turn their guns away from each other, and instead target US-backed Afghan forces.

“In early 2008, when Russia began supporting us, ISIS didn’t exist anywhere in the world,” one senior Taliban official told Reuters. “Their sole purpose was to strengthen us against the US and its allies.”

As the Journal reported, it’s still unclear how a Trump administration will handle Afghanistan. The situation there has steadily declined since the Obama administration ended its “combat mission” in the country in 2014, and government forces only control about  two-thirds of the country now, according to Reuters.

Besides potential Russian meddling, Afghanistan is rife with political corruption and tribalism, while many civilians report to a “shadow” government run by the Taliban instead of the national one.

The Pentagon announced it was sending roughly 300 Marines back to the southern Helmand province this spring, where Marines haven’t been on patrol since leaving in 2014.

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Soldiers in forestry program gain after-service job skills

Sally Gorrill’s career as an engineer in the US Army has taken her to such places as Panama and the Dominican Republic, where she’s built medical clinics. Now, she’s interested in applying her skills toward a new field: forestry.


Gorrill, 30, a captain who’s spent seven years in the Army, is part of a new summer internship program for soldiers through the Veterans Conservation Corps in New Hampshire’s White Mountain National Forest. She’s getting training in land management skills as she prepares to transition out of the service.

“It’s the closest I’ve been to home in about 12 years, so it feels great to be back,” said Gorrill, of Gray, Maine, who wants to spend her future outdoors.

So far, she and two other veterans in the program have learned how to maintain trails, keep away bears, and fight forest fires. She’ll also be learning about hydrology, wildlife biology, law enforcement, and other facets of the US Forest Service, which partnered with the Department of Defense on the project.

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Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Organizers hope the fledgling program will provide a model that can be applied nationally to assist more soldiers interested in land management.

Forest Ranger Jim Innes said the Forest Service nationwide is experiencing a lot of attrition through retirement. He said the agency has hired military veterans, who bring strong skills to the Forest Service.

“They bring a completely different way of looking at things to the agency,” he said. “There’s a huge benefit; we learn a lot from them, they learn a lot from us.”

Gorrill said some techniques used to fight wildfires are similar to ones learned in the military. “From my experience, having dealt with construction equipment, it’s probably the most direct translation, because digging trenches is something I’m used to,” she said.

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White Mountain National Forest. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

One challenge for program organizers was providing lodging for the soldiers in the forest. They ended up renovating an old Civilian Conservation Corps-era structure known as “The Lodge” in the Bartlett Experimental Forest, a field laboratory for research on the ecology and management of northern hardwoods and associated ecosystems. The building hadn’t been used for about 10 years. The Forest Service received funding from businesses and volunteer help to install kitchen cabinets and handle electrical and plumbing work. Innes hopes it can be winterized so that program can run year-round.

The soldiers also will be getting help with resume writing and interview skills, as forest officials try to help place them in jobs.

Another participant, Terry Asbridge, 37, of Horseheads, New York, is getting ready to retire from the Army. He has completed 20 years, much of it in recruitment. His goal is to be a district park ranger, but he also can see himself working in firefighting, development or recreation in the forest.

“One of my passions is land management and wildlife management,” he said. “I can put this on my resume and apply for positions with the US Forest Service.”

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The dark origins of Bikini Bottom

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Wikimedia Commons


Have you ever sat around wondering how Spongebob learned to tie a Windsor knot, how Squidward acquired his affinity for the arts, or how Plankton became perceptive enough to develop a Napoleon complex? Well, here’s a theory that should simultaneously quell your curiosity while fulfilling the core function of the internet: robbing you of your childhood innocence.

Basically, this unique aquatic society was the result of U.S. nuclear testing in the South Pacific Ocean, and that all of your childhood pals, from Mr. Krabs to Mrs. Puff, are radioactively mutated fish.

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Our thoughts exactly

History seems to support this claim. The nuclear testing site that the theory refers to is Bikini Atoll, a group of islands in Micronesia. After World War II, the U.S. military detonated 23 nuclear devices on the islands as it geared up for an arms race with the Soviet Union. Remember that island that appears at the beginning of every SpongeBob episode? Well, that’s what remains of Bikini Atoll. The creators of the show left other clues to this radioactive origin story, such as Squidward’s Easter Island head residence (a hint of the town’s South Pacific locale), the popular Bikini Bottom magazine Toxic Waste Monthly, and the mushroom cloud that seems to rise from every explosion in the show.

So, it seems likely that the bombing of Bikini Atoll created Bikini Bottom, a nightmarish seascape where a sponge is economically extorted by a crab, who somehow fathered a sperm whale. But maybe it was all for the best. Bikini Bottom seems like a pleasant enough city, and the residents certainly have less mundane lives than your average fish or sponge. All’s well that ends well, right?

Maybe not. Because before U.S. nukes created one of America’s most beloved children’s shows, there were real, non-animated people living on Bikini Atoll: 167 to be exact. Bikini Atoll is part of the Marshall Islands, which has its own distinctive language, culture, and society. Leading a subsistence based lifestyle, Bikinians were a subset of this society.

In 1946 the people of Bikini Atoll were compelled to “temporarily relocate” by the United States, who wanted to begin nuclear testing on the islands. They were told they had to leave “for the good of mankind” and were subsequently sent to Rongerik Atoll, an uninhabited group of islands one-sixth the size of Bikini that lacked adequate sources of food and water. The U.S. navy dropped them on the shore with several weeks of food supplies and left. Soon, the Bikinians had a serious malnutrition problem, with most living on the brink of starvation. Within two months of relocation, they were begging the U.S. to allow them to return to Bikini, not knowing about the nuclear devastation being brought down upon their home. Their calls were ignored, and they were left on the island for two years. “We were dying, but they didn’t listen to us,” commented one of the inhabitants of Rongerik.

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Eventually, the government began the process of moving the Bikinians to Ujelang Atoll. A handful Bikinians were sent to Ujelang to begin construction of their new society. But two months later, the plans fell through. The U.S. had chosen a second location for nuclear testing, Enewetak Atoll, and decided that the Enewetak people, instead of the Bikinians, would be relocated to Ujelang.

In 1948, The Bikini natives were finally liberated from Rongerik and sent to Kwajalein Atoll, where they lived in tents next to a concrete military airstrip. Six months later they were relocated once again to Kili Island, a .36-square-mile island where most Bikinians still live today. The island greatly differed from the Atolls they were accustomed to, making their traditional methods of fishing and food cultivation far less effective. Starvation once again became a daily concern and the Bikinians had to rely on USDA rice and canned goods to survive. The island was also prone to flooding, making them vulnerable to hurricanes and typhoons. They soon began referring to Kili as “Prison Island.”

Meanwhile, nuclear tests continued on Bikini Atoll, culminating in the 1954 “Castle Bravo” test, which detonated a nuclear weapon 1,000-times more powerful than the atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima. The blast was larger than the U.S. government expected and the resulting radioactive fallout spread throughout the Marshall Islands, blanketing inhabited islands and contaminating their residents. The subsequent health effects still plague Marshall Islanders today.

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Mushroom cloud at Castle Bravo

Decades passed, and in 1969, President Lyndon B. Johnson announced that the now 540 Bikinians would be able to resettle their home islands. The Atomic Energy Commission issued a statement saying “There’s virtually no radiation left and we can find no discernible effect on either plant or animal life.” Feeling confident in these assurances, Bikinians began to resettle in 1972. But in 1978, tests by U.S. physicians revealed that the radiation levels in the 139 people on Bikini Atoll were well above the permissible level. They were evacuated.

Today, the native inhabitants of Bikini Atoll continue to seek compensation from the U.S. government for the devastation of their home. Many demand that the U.S. clean up the mess they made in Bikini so they might return home. Some have more modest claims, like Simon Jamore, who wants access to better healthcare for four of his family members who have developed cancer. The islands remain almost entirely uninhabited, excluding the marine citizens of Bikini Bottom. For now, the only thing fit to live in Bikini Atoll is a radioactive fry-cook sponge.

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Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war

After having as many as 24 of its planes destroyed in a salvo of 59 cruise missiles from US Navy ships in the Mediterranean Sea on April 7, Syria has repositioned its jets to bases protected by Russian missile defenses, according to CNN.


“The Syrian air force is not in good shape,” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon, according to CNN. “It’s been worn down by years of combat plus some … significant maintenance problems.”

Still, combined with the dozens of planes from his Russian backers, Syrian President Bashar Assad has an asymmetrical air advantage over his adversaries — rebel groups that have little more than a few anti-aircraft missile launchers.

The move to bases near Russian missile defenses provides Syria with a clear deterrent against further US strikes. Experts say Russia’s S-300 and S-400 anti-air defenses can knock down Tomahawk cruise missiles, which were used in the April 7 strike.

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Russian S-400 Triumph medium-range and long-range surface-to-air missile systems at the Victory Day parade in Moscow. | Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Aleksey Toritsyn

Additionally, Russia has moved three warships to Syria’s coast, further complicating the US’s options should it launch another strike.

US officials have repeatedly stressed that they are “prepared to do more” against Assad’s regime should more evidence of the use of chemical weapons in Syria appear, but the recent developments on the battlefield mean an engagement would be much more dangerous.

Related: Islamic State terrorists launched a chemical attack in Mosul

Igor Sutyagin of the Royal United Services Institute an expert on Russian missile defense systems and strategic armaments, told Business Insider that the presence of Russian defenses didn’t guarantee the safety of Syria’s planes.

“One air defense battalion with an S-300 has 32 missiles,” Sutyagin said. “They will fire these against 16 targets — maybe against cruise missiles they would fire a one-to-one ratio — but to prevent the target from evading, you always launch two … but what if there are 50 targets?”

To further avoid detection, the US could use stealth aircraft like F-22s currently stationed in the theater.

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A US Air Force F-22 Raptor flies over the Arabian Sea in support of Operation Inherent Resolve in January 2016. | US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Corey Hook

Although the US could still carry out an attack against Syrian and Russian military targets, it would run a huge risk of killing Russian service members. The US warned Moscow ahead of the April 7 strike on Shayrat air base.

In this situation, where the target is Russian air defenses or planes on Russian bases, it’s unclear if the Russians would back away from their hardware, and killing Russian service members would risk massive escalation.